Shipping Container Installation Part 1

We’ve been away from CookingArchitecture for a bit so it feels like a long time since the Dia de Los Muertos dinner. But don’t worry… we’ve been keeping busy creating other art installations and large meals for people, and we have it here to share with you! In early October, ParProjects invited artists from around Ohio to create kinetic installations in thirteen shipping containers in front of the American Can Factory in Northside. Our professor was invited, and in turn he asked the five of us {Joe, Travis, Ryan, Caleb & myself} to work with him to make a rotating installation in the container. Each week, one person directed the concept of the installation, and the group helped implement the design. At the end of each week, the week’s director put together a Sunday evening meal so that we could join together to discuss the piece and hand off the baton to the next person. Over the six weeks of the installation, we lifted tons—literally tons—of salt, consumed way too many High Lifes, jammed some fingers, had no severe accidents {thankfully}, and fed over a hundred people dinner. Here’s a look at the first five weeks. {Check back in two days to see the last week!}

Vincent began the first week with 121 pristine white salt blocks that are used in fields for livestock. We took advantage of the tapered shape of the blocks to create a double-curved wall at the front of the container. This bright white, patterned surface set the tone for the rest of the installation by determining the starting materials. The first meal of fish soup paid homage to the salt we were using and where the containers are going after they leave this space. We mingled around outside the box, enjoying the fall sun and dipping our crunchy bread in the creamy soup. We sipped our wine and wondered how the next five weeks would unfold.

Week two began with Caleb turning the curved wall on its front, supported by hundreds of haphazard wood shims. For the meal, we all sat on the curved plane, surrounding Caleb as he cooked hot pot in the middle using lamp oil in the whole of the salt block. After the meal, we put lamp oil and wicks in the rest of the holes of the blocks and lit them to create a curved plane of fire. The fire left the blocks charred and pungent, retaining the smell of the lamp oil. The remnants of the installation stayed into the next week, modifying the blocks even more as our hands spread the charred black stain over the blocks.

The next week, Ryan added another dimension to the installation by integrating the installation and meal into a performance piece. We created an altar of salt blocks that supported a sixteen-foot board, but he kept his plans for the meal secret. When we arrived on Sunday night, Ryan explained that we would be killing the fish that we would be eating for dinner. Individually, we went behind the altar to kill our own fish. We then grilled the fish and gathered along the board for a formal dinner and intense discussion about morals surrounding our food and how that affected our feelings of the meal.

Travis led the next week. He arranged 100 of the blocks in a large cube, and eroded the cube with a constant spray of water. The water spray on the blocks was mesmerizing and completely shattered everything about the blocks that we had become accustomed to. Ultimately, the whole cube was destroyed, and the remaining pieces showed this erosion. For the meal, one end of the board rested on a salt block in the container and extended outside to create a table. The dinner of slow-roasted beef also reflected a similar degradation process to the salt blocks and water.

Following week four was extremely challenging because the installation had destroyed everything we knew and understood about the salt blocks and changed them from uniform modules to unique pieces. Joe chose to highlight the change and displayed the blocks as artifacts, remnants of what had occurred. The blocks were categorized by size and then suspended from a structure made from the board. During the meal, we sat in a semi-circle outside, watching the glowing object inside the box. The Korean barbeque warmed us as the rain threatened our Sunday night gathering for the first time.

The final week concluded the series of installations and fell on the week of Thanksgiving. It was my week to direct, and I was terrified to address all of these expectations and preconceived notions in one installation. But…you’ll just have to wait until next time to see what happened! Check back in two days to see the result or you can sign up for the feed {left side, gray tab} to receive an email whenever a new post comes out!